Sale 925 — The Edgar Kuphal Collection of U.S. Carriers and Locals

Sale Date — Wednesday, 15 November, 2006

Category — Loomis thru Mearis

Cat./Est. Value
Sale 925, Lot 1610, Loomis thru MearisMagic Letter Express, Richmond Va., 5c Black on Brown (101L3). Large margins, clear impression, central ms. "X" cancel and tiny ms. "July 18" date, part of "Richmond Va. Jul. 19" (1865) circular datestamp and cork cancel, few faults incl. large thinned area at bottom


The Magic Letter Express was run for approximately two months in June and July 1865 by the Richmond firm of Evans, Porter & Co., under the management of Maurice Evans. It is perhaps the most misunderstood of American local posts, yet its origins can be impeccably documented and its stamps are of the greatest rarity. In the Golden sale, we had the opportunity to establish the history of the Magic Letter Express with previously unreported archival documentation. This information may be found in the Golden catalogue (lot 1326) and at our website:

Only six Magic Letter Express stamps are known in total, including the unique 1c on cover, one 2c, and four 5c (two on covers). The first example of a Magic Letter Express stamp was described in the June 1887 Quaker City Philatelist as one of two "discoveries of Confederate Locals" by G. M. Bastable, the other being the Liberty Va. Confederate provisional. Bastable is quoted in the article: "The Richmond local, known as the Magic Letter Express, I found among a large correspondence from Richmond, Va., extending from 1840 to 1870. Many of the old envelopes had Confederate stamps of the general issue, and others U.S. stamps of the general issue. I obtained these from a member of the family to whom they were mailed, and among the lot I found the Magic Letter Expresses. The family could give me no information concerning this particular stamp." The article pictures a cut of the 5c Magic Letter Express and describes the item as "an envelope bearing the postmark of Richmond, Va., July 30, [the stamp] is printed on manila paper, and has a good margin. The envelope is addressed to Mr. Ro. King, Gordonsville, Va." We have no record of this cover other than the 1887 report.

Including the long-lost discovery cover, we record the following examples: 1) 1c 101L1 cancelled "Paid" on Jun. 2, 1865, folded letter handcarried from "Rockland" to Richmond, "June 3d 1865" ms. postmark, delivered locally at appropriate 1c rate, ex Golden, D.K. Collection (Siegel Sale 862, lot 89, realized $37,500); 2) 2c 101L2, ms. "Richmond July 4 '65" cancellation, ex Needham, Boker, Richardson, Moyer, Golden, D.K. Collection (Siegel Sale 862, lot 90, realized $12,500); 3) 5c 101L3, uncancelled, affixed to the undated broadside, ex Needham, Boker; 4) 5c 101L3, ms. "July 18" postmark and part of Richmond Va. Jul. 19 duplex datestamp and cork cancel (applied by post office), found by George Sloane, ex Boker, the stamp offered here; 5) 5c 101L3 tied by ms. "Richmond July 10/65" postmark on cover to Talbot B. Coleman, Staunton Va., ex Needham, Boker; and 6) the Bastable discovery example, 5c 101L3, reported to be dated Jul. 30, 1865, on cover to Robert King in Gordonsville Va., whereabouts unknown and no confirming photo.

The recorded dates establish a time period from June 3 through July 30, 1865. The covers to Staunton and Gordonsville, as well as the incoming cover from Rockland, indicate that the Magic Letter Express used railroad lines to convey mail distances as far as 140 track miles from Richmond. This local post and inter-city express was blatantly illegal.

This stamp was found by George Sloane. Ex Boker.

E. 7,500-10,000